Friday, September 27, 2013

How to Build a Bike Lane

The "lane " was removed by the city in a few days (but graffitti remained?)

An interesting question for cycling advocates. We want safe routes to work, school, shopping and just for riding. We want our cities to be invested in these things. In short we cyclists want our cities to become bike places ala Copenhagen and Amsterdam - as well as a half dozen other northern European cities. And a few here - Minneapolis?

One way to get lanes built is to lobby lawmakers, rally support among residents, work the media angle, shout from the treetops and wait. Seems like waiting is thing we do most.

There is another way. My friend Liz Patek and some her friends - a group calling themselves Right of Way - in New York understood the need for the expansion of the 6th Avenue bike lane that has a current northern terminus at 42 Street. It was along this stretch of 6th Avenue that a British tourist had been hit by a taxi, severing her leg. The taxi driver later said he was blinded with rage having to share the streets with cyclists. He jumped the curb and hit this woman while she walked on the sidewalk.

So what did they do? In advance of the global Car Free Day(s), they got out their cardboard templates, spray paint and started building the lane.

Templates on a cargo bike

From 42nd Street moving up town along 6th Avenue, they painted the dividing line and several bike images from their own Right of Way "brand" - a cyclist with wings.

I'm intrigued about the graphic and its meaning. I don't know the intent but from an homage to those who have died on their bikes to the "I can fly" when on my my bike, the meaning can be powerful.

During construction, done in busy traffic from the looks of it, the lane was almost immediately accepted by cyclists and with few exceptions, motorists. One motorist drove across the wet paint spreading the wings across the pavement.

Fun with paint

By morning, the lane was in place and cyclists in celebration of Car Free Day flocked to it making it a legitimate thoroughfare in the city. Bike lane? Done and done.

At Times Square - Car Free Day

6th Avenue Bike Lane

There has been some talk about making urban places and events using a principal pioneered by the folks at Project for Public Spaces. Lighter Quicker Cheaper. Rather than pulling out our hair wishing for solutions to come out of the typical processes, take an idea and quickly implement it with as little resources as necessary and test it's effectiveness. Parks? Events? Bike lanes? All can work.

I lived in New York in the late 70's and early 80's when graffitti was rampant. I was struck by how, once created, it just stayed there. For years. I'm thinking of the 6th Avenue bike lane as a kind of graffiti. Leave it there and people will come to accept that this is making New York safer.

Footnote: A Youtube video of the project is here: 


1 comment:

  1. Similar action in Seattle led to an official lane: